Urban Industrial Mission
The Pioneer of Urban Rural Mission
by the Rev. Henry Aguilan
Highlights of activities of the Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) movement
in the Philippines and Asia beginning in the mid-1950s, which later evolved into urban
rural mission (URM), are provided to remember the organizing work of the past in order to
better understand the present context and to discern appropriate strategies for the
1956: The United Church of Christ in the
Philippines (UCCP) started a frontier ministry to the industrial community through the
Committee on Industrial Life (COIL) with a full-time fraternal worker, the Rev. Richard
Poethig of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Rev. Henry Aguilan, who volunteered to
serve as the COIL coordinator for the Southern Tagalog Conference, was the first
pastor-trainee to take courses on labor unionism at the Asian Labor Education Center at
the University of the Philippines. As a minister in local churches, he involved himself in
the education program and organizing of local unions for dried and shredded coconut
factory workers in Candelana, Lucena City, Lusacan and Tiaong - all located in Quezon
1957:UCCP-COIL sponsored a national
consultation and organized the Pastors and Seminarians in Industry program. These
seminarians and pastors were sent for a one-month exposure program to work in factories
and to live with the workers. This was followed by a week-long reflection and evaluation
1958: COIL participated in the
planning of the first Asian Conference of Asian Clergy and Lay Leaders on Industrial
Evangelism. This meeting, sponsored by the East Asia Christian Conference (EACC) - the
forerunner of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) - was attended by more than 40
representatives from 16 Asian countries and observers from Europe and the United States.
1959-1964: COIL coordinated the
Pastors and Seminarians in Industry program with the following church-related
institutions: Union Theological Seminary, the Divinity School of Silliman University, the
College of Theology at Central Philippine University and St. Andrews Seminary.
1965: The Interchurch Industrial
Evangelism Committee was organized with the following representatives: Cipriano Malonzo of
UCCP, president (chairperson of Mindanao Labor Federation); Jose Javier Jr. of Unida de
Cristo, vice chairperson; Lilia Oblifias Ramos, executive director (secretary of Manila
Community Services Inc.); the Rev. George Castro of the Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en
las Is-las Filipinas or IEMELIF (Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippines),
treasurer; Ruth Prudente of the United Methodist Church, public relations officer; and the
Rev. Henry Aguilan of UCCP, project director.
1966-1967: Seminars on industrial
evangelism were conducted in key cities of the Philippines in the countrys four
major areas: Baguio City in northern Luzon; Legazpi City in southern Luzon; Cebu City in
the Visayas region; and Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao. The focus of concern was to challenge
local churches, members of the clergy and lay leaders to become more involved in their
respective contexts in view of the technological advances being experienced in their
localities and throughout the country in general.
1968: The first Asian Conference of
Urban Industrial Mission sponsored by EACC was held in Bangkok, Thailand, with more than
60 delegates representing about 18 countries. Previous participants to the 1958 Asian
Industrial Evangelism Conference in Manila consider this as the second Asian conference
since industrial evangelism was considered as the forerunner of UIM.
The Interchurch Industrial Evangelism Committee became UIM, which was
an independent body. UIM was visibly involved in the struggle of the slums and urban poor
in the Tondo Foreshoreland for land ownership.
1969: UJM became one of the divisions
of the Commission on Social Welfare and Social Education (CSWSE) of the National Council
of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). At this time, the Rev. Henry Aguilan became the
executive director of CSWSE and concurrently the director of UIM.
UIM was instrumental in the formation of the Philippine Ecumenical
Council for C&mmunity Organization (PECCO), a joint venture of the Roman Catholic and
Protestant churches that engaged in active community organizing among the more than
180,000 inhabitants of the 18-hectare Tondo ForeshOrelafld area who aspired to own this
land and to prevent the government from converting it into a garbage dump, or "Smoky
Mountain" as it came to be called.
1970: UIM negotiated with the United
Church of Christ (UCC) in the United States for a full-time fraternal worker to serve as a
community organizer and trainer, and the Rev. Herbert White was appointed. The Zone One
Tondo Organization (ZOTO) was established under the sponsorship of PECCO and provided a
training ground for its community organizing efforts. With this accomplished, the
aspirations and vision of the poor for the eventual ownership of a piece of land rekindled
a new sense of awareness in them - one that symbolized not only their desire to own a plot
of physical property on earth but also to eventually be co-owners of Gods Creation.
The struggle for land ownership was the peoples power, and this could be achieved
only through genuine peoples organizations (POs). Initial trainees -church workers,
nuns and deaconesses - were members of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
The popular training program was known as Community Organization or CO.
The EACC-UIM Committee met in Manila, and in partnership with NCCP-UIM,
made arrangements with PECCO to accept Asian trainees for its CO program. NCCP-UIM took
responsibility for their immigration requirements while they were in the Philippines.
1971: NCCP-UIM established a network
of contacts with labor groups, farm workers, peasants, small farmers and fishermen to meet
the CO training needs of their leaders. PECCO experienced an influx of applicants for the
CO training program, which was compounded by the participation of several trainees from
other Asian countries.
1972: NCCP-UIM was soon under
surveillance by the military. It was labeled as a subversive organization and outlawed
when martial law was imposed by the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos on Sept. 21. Some
NCCP member churches accused UIM of wittingly, or unwittingly, being infiltrated by
subversive elements in the program.
1973: UIM became URM as NCCP sought to
reflect the movements heightened commitment to involve itself in issues affecting
rural areas, such as cultural communities, peasants, small farmers and farm workers. An
issue upon which URM focused was the dislocation of poor families caused by the widespread
entry of transnational corporations (TNCs).
CSWSE was also renamed the Commission on Development and Social
Concerns (CDSC) before the consultation on development in the town of Angono, and CCAUIM
became CCA-URM as well.
1974: A NCCP-URM meeting was raided
while participants were still assembling at the rented house of the Rev. Paul and Didi
Wilson on June 24. Those arrested were Dr. Dante Simbulan, Bong Malonzo, Paul Wilson,
Ricardo Santiago and NCCP janitor Rafael Galeogan. Those arrested inside the residence
were the. Rev. La Verne Mercado, NCCP general secretary; Nellie Mercado; Jean Santiago;
and the Rev. Harry Daniel, former executive secretary of CCA-UIM and at the time the
associate secretary of CCA, who was staying at a church-related guesthouse. Within a
six-month period, all of those arrested were released.
1975: URM coordinated the visit of
lawyers sent by Amnesty International to interview political detainees and ex-detainees in
order to document the ongoing violations of human rights under martial law.
CDSC was reorganized with the following divisions: URM, Rural Life and
Agricultural Development, Family Ministries and Church World Service. This structure
remained until 1982.
1976: NCCP-URM declared that PECCO
should cease to operate because of differences of understanding about the philosophy,
methodology, involvement and participation between Roman Catholic and Protestant
representatives on the PECCO board. The split gave birth to the Philippine Ecumenical
Action for Community Empowerment (PEACE), a continuing Protestant program on peoples
organization for the empowerment of the exploited, oppressed and marginalized Filipino
masses. The Rev. Tonibio Cajiuat was its first project director.
1977: CDSC-URJM participated in a
joint venture with the Roman Catholic Churchs National Secretariat for Social Action
(NASSA) to form the Basic Christian Community-Community Organization (BCC-CO). A set of
common guidelines was prepared, but implementation was initiated separately. Thus, BCC-CO
was integrated within CDSC - a program of action that was fully implemented from 1978 to
1981. The central feature of the program was to build social awareness or conscientization
and the total human development of people, especially the poor, deprived, oppressed and
marginalized, through CO based on the prophetic teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ. In
Luke 4:18, the Gospel says:
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has chosen me to
bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and
recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and to announce that the time
has come when the Lord will save His people."
1980: A National URM Consultation was
held. Once more it expressed its mission and concern by advocating that the NCCP Executive
Committee approve Action 80-41:
"Resolved that URM assume a more active role in rallying
the people of God for the liberation of the Filipino people from poverty, alienation,
degradation, exploitation and oppression, and at the same time, working for his [sic] fullest
development spiritually and materially, socially and politically, educationally and
The Rev. Leonardo "Ding" Morada was appointed coordinator of
The Asian Consultation and Workshop on URM was held in Quezon City. The
Rev. George Ninan, who succeeded the Rev. Oh Jae-shik as CCA-URM executive secretary,
1981: URM defined the rationale for URMs
existence and tasks because of differences of understanding about URM and its relationship
with all sectoral groups that were fully involved in the struggle for peoples
liberation from poverty, exploitation and oppression.
In conclusion, I would like to note that two official members elected
by CCA to serve the CCA-URM Program Committee were the Rev. Henry Aguilan from 1969 to
1978 and Dr. Levi Oracion from 1979 to 1985. Both of them contributed to the theological
and practical perspectives of "living in Christ with the people" and for the
total deve lopment of people as active participants in decision making and in determining
their future and destiny.
(Ed. note: This historical overview of the urban rural
mission [URM] movement in the Philippines and Asia over more than 25 years was shared at
the Philippines URM National Consultation, August 1994, Quezon City, Philippines.)